A Travellerspoint blog

The Journey so Far

Lubeck,Germany to Zakopane,Poland

The Route

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Miles Travelled ; 2,319
Hours Ridden 55 hrs 14 minutes
Maximum Speed : A bit faster than before

Posted by Mick G 11:59 Comments (5)

The High Tatra Mountains

Three countries in one day to the High Tatras and Zakopane,Poland

sunny 28 °C

The reason we were heading for Zakopane was quite simple. Some years ago, April and I were riding through Switzerland when we met a man from Brazil, in a cable car - I hasten to add we were not riding the bike on the cable car, we just happened to be riding a cable car with a man from Brazil- anyway, he was originally from Switzerland and returned on regular holidays. ( Did I say this was simple?) I'll cut to the chase. We asked him where he recommended going in Switzerland He replied Pontresena. We went. We enjoyed it. After that rewarding experience, we now try and repeat it by asking random people where they would recommend going to. I must point out that this has not always met with success.

However, undeterred, we found ourselves in Scotland earlier this year talking to a Polish waiter. As you may know there are at least a couple of them working in Scotland's hotel trade. We asked him where he would recommend as a destination in Poland and he said, ( and you are ahead of me here by at least ten sentences) - Zakopane. See the answer was simple,even if the explanation was not.

First though, we had to endure a ride from hell. You probably know the situation. The journey starts with great anticipation. A route well planned. It takes in scenic roads, a couple of lakes and some interesting towns. The sun is shining. it's hot. In fact it's very hot, 29 degrees to be precise. We have over 200 miles to travel, but we have all day. We even have time to stop and look at the Czech war memorial.
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We are making good time. Everything in the world is great. Then, just before the Slovakian border we hit the mother and father of traffic jams. We are stuck. Unable to filter,we sit in 29 degree heat with 40 ton trucks,going nowhere.

Nothing for it but to turn around and find another route. Thirty minutes later, courtesy of the Sat Nav (aka The Bitch) we return to the queue of traffic, only this time thirty minutes further back. We were not happy. We turned round again and this time ignored the pleadings of The Bitch and headed for Poland, using the good old fashioned map method and dead reckoning. After a substantial detour through Poland and a small incursion into Slovakia we eventually arrived in Zakopane at 6.30pm,tired, overheated and some 260 miles the wiser.
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Zakopane

Zakopane is known as the winter capital of Poland. It doesn't do too bad in the summer either. It is busy. Half of Poland must come here in July,but it isn't hard to see why.
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It's situated in the heart of the High Tatras and consequently attracts skiers in the winter and walkers in the summer. The town itself reminds April and I of the Alpine towns of Austria or Germany. It has an area of old wooden houses dating back centuries, contrasting with a busy shopping area with outdoor shops, many restaurants and ice cream sellers.There is also a market area that unfortunately seems to have been taken over by all the usual types of tourist tat that get's sold all over the world. It is still worth a visit though, just out to people watch. Oh, and if you men ever wonder what happened to your 'speedo's' well don't fret, they are now being worn as a fashion items by polish men, shopping, washing cars, gardening or whatever, anyway they still exist!! Might keep mine a bit longer.
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Our plan was to stay for four nights to give us time to explore the area. From here, it was easy to explore both the Slovakian and Polish side of the Tatras. The Belianske Tatry were particularly impressive. There are parts of the mountains where access is prevented to preserve the unique fauna of the area.
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The 67 in Slovakia is one road in particular that is worth travelling,giving these great views.
The 537 is also worth travelling. This is the view from Strbeke Pleso.
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This is the furthest East that we intend to go. From here we turn West, towards home.

Posted by Mick G 11:38 Archived in Poland Tagged landscapes mountains lakes buildings motorcycle tourist_sites Comments (1)

Jesenik, Czech Republic

Riding through the Czech Republic

semi-overcast 15 °C

We left Trutnov and headed for Jesenik in another ski area. This was an overnight stay on our way to Zakopane in Poland, where we intended to stay for a few days. The towns and the roads in the Czezh Republic varied greatly. The main roads are excellent. Smooth well repaired tarmac. However when the Sat Nav- as is her want- took us on the minor roads they deteriorated badly. However it has to be said, no worse than some of the minor roads in Northumberland ! On one such occasion however we were rewarded of this view of a lovely Czech village.
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Other towns were less picturesque. It seems it's taking a while for the Czech's to recover from Communism and the financial crisis.
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We saw little evidence of mass tourism. Most cars we saw bore Czech number plates. We didn't see any foreign motorcycles, apart from our Dutch friends, and judging by the curiosity our bike generated, I don't think anyone was used to seeing British bikes.
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In fact when we arrived at our hotel, the staff couldn't belief we had ridden from Britain. The hotel was perhaps evidence of investment in tourism. It was new, welcoming and served excellent food. The staff spoke English, which is important not just for us, but for many other nationalities who use English as a common language in the more out of the way destinations. The surrounding hotels also looked good.
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This was our last night in the Czech Republic. Although we had limited our travels to the northern mountains we had enjoyed our stay here.

Posted by Mick G 07:42 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged landscapes mountains churches buildings motorcycle tourist_sites Comments (2)

Trutnov, Czech Republic

Mountains,bends and Irishmen

At last, as we made our way through the Czech Republic, we started to find bends in the road. The landscape became increasingly hilly as we entered the Carpathian mountain range that stretches in a great arc into Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary. Our destination was Trutnov, where we planned to stay for a couple of nights.

We passed through some towns and villages that seemed to be stuck in former Eastern Block times. The block architecture theme continued and many of the older houses had lost their former splendour and were badly in need of maintenance. However as we got further into the mountains and to some of the ski areas, there were marked signs of improved wealth. The houses became more Alpine in appearance and were better maintained.
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Trutnov appeared a prosperous town.Our hotel was near to the large town square and came as a bit of a surprise. I suppose the name Nelly Kelly's should have been a clue, but we didn't expect a full blown real Irish Pub, owned by a full blown real Irishman, in the middle of the Czech Republic. Neither did we expect the four Irishmen well on their way to oblivion with the aid of cheap Czech beer. "I'll f**king tell you this, I f**king love this f**king man" came the dulcet tones from the beer garden.
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The Hotel was newly refurbished and excellent value.We had a beer, got our room, showered,went for a walk, came back some three hours later to "I'll f**king tell you this, I really,really f**king love this f**king lovely man". We had our dinner and went into the bar to wait for the live Irish music,only to hear our drunken friends renditions of indecipherable songs and much more swearing. Eventually, after many drunken man hugs,shoulder crying and statements of undying admiration and love, they left the bar to wherever in Trutnov they call home.

We never discovered why so many Irishmen were living in Trutnov and couldn't figure out if they had been attracted by the Bar or the Bar had been attracted by them. We decided that it was best not to ask too many questions.
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Remarkably we had arrived at Trutnov at the same time as a Dutch couple, travelling on the same type of bike as ourselves. It was all the more surprising because we hadn't seen another "foreign" bike or car since we had crossed the border. Fred and Urmar turned out to be very good company and we spent the whole of the next day with them. We all had a ride out to the Czech Republics highest mountain, Mount Snezka, which at 1600 metres,isn't the largest mountain in the world,but is still much higher than our own Ben Nevis. The ride also involved our first venture into Poland over some very poorly maintained mountain roads.
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Posted by Mick G 11:46 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged landscapes mountains people motorcycle Comments (5)

Into the Czech Republic and the Carpathian Mountains

The single currency and why wasn't I taught Czech in school ?

semi-overcast 19 °C

Don't you think the Euro is really useful ? You can travel vast areas of Europe and know that the unleaded petrol in Holland is expensive, compared with Germany. You know instantly that the coffee and cakes you bought in Belgium are cheaper than in France. And, when you go to another Euro country you don't have to get rid of all those annoying little coins that you collect, whose value you have no idea about.

Equally useful is all the languages you know. Ah! you might think, I don't know any languages other than English and even that may be in doubt. You, like me, may have day dreamed your way through four years of French and or German, avoiding the teachers eye in case you were asked to speak the language and therefore face instant ridicule from classmates. The result was a useful ability to ask in French, the name of someone's cat, or in German, to state that the bell is ringing and the teacher is coming into the classroom. But no, don't despair, you might know more than you think. For instance, I don't giggle any more when I see the word ausfahrt . I know it's not rude and means exit. I can even manage Bonjour and Merci in French. I know numbers and days and the difference between the words for butcher and baker. I know more than I think and perhaps you do as well.

The reason I mention all this, is perhaps I didn't appreciate how much foreign language I knew until we followed the River Elbe into the Czech Republic. It immediately became clear that I could not read and that I couldn't understand anything said to me. April and I were bemused to say the least.

We had realised rather late that the usefulness of the Euro was going to be denied to us and that we were going to have to do the old exchange thing. We stopped in a small border town trying to find somewhere to exchange money. Within two seconds of stopping we were approached by a young woman, dressed very casually who may have been begging or was a car park attendant. We have no idea which, because no meaningful conversation could take place. We hadn't a clue about any of the signs or shop names. Nothing was recognisable, even to make a reasonable guess as to what it meant.

Eventually we did find a bank in another larger town, but this was thanks to "The Bitch" otherwise known as the Sat Nav. Again, our lack of planning was exposed. April worked the ATM machine perfectly and got it to give us 400 Czech sheckles. Of course, what we didn't know was, how much is 400 Czech sheckles worth ? It sounds a lot, but when April looked in a shop window and saw that a tube of toothpaste was 59 sheckles it dawned on us that we may have to revisit the bank, before our time in the Czech Republic was over. It turned out we had withdrawn the grand amount of £13.06. Then there is the problem of what to do with all those little Euro coins we've collected !

( I know I said I didn't giggle at ausfahrt anymore but I may have lied judging by this photo I couldn't resist taking. And yes I know it's childish!)
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Posted by Mick G 09:07 Archived in Czech Republic Tagged people motorcycle Comments (4)

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